“Despite the rich and marvellous bird life of Salem, it was quite surprising to see the lack of birders in recent times. Unless we know what is around us and their importance, we may never make an effort to conserve it. Awareness about our local wildlife treasures is the first and crucial step which is very essential everywhere. So I have always wanted to publicize the glory of Salem birds on a regular basis. The meticulous record keeping by Mysore birders gave me the supplementary push to do it. On the birth anniversary of the legend Wangari Maathai, I’m delighted to bring out this first issue of DARTER, the quarterly e-newsletter/blog on birds and birding activities in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India. This is the first region specific news blog in Tamil Nadu dedicated to birds which will cover all the new records, interesting observations, articles, outreach programs, etc., happening in the district. We invite everyone especially school children to write their experiences, drawings or any work related to birds and photographers to submit their bird photographs taken only in Salem. The photograph should have been embedded in an eBird checklist which is mandatory.
Our team believes that the activities done in Salem will inspire many people and DARTER is one of the media to reach them. The first three months of birding activities in Salem has surpassed my expectations. Four years back, birding was almost zero in my hometown. Now we have people who are really dedicated to their daily birding. It doesn’t matter if the changes and progress are slow but should be sustainable in the long term even if there is no one to lead. That is the real success. It is possible only through team work and the prospects of what we can achieve as a team is much greater and it has done wonders. We hope to carry the same spirit and momentum not only for the welfare of birds but also to leave a better place for the next generation.
Why was DARTER chosen?
By not choosing any generalized name of a common bird which is already known to people (like Eagle, Woodpecker), I thought to use this opportunity to introduce a new name to people. I wanted to select a bird which is bigger in size, charismatic, fairly common, easily identifiable, threatened (or near-threatened) and the one which has good distribution in many parts of the district. After analyzing all the species recorded in Salem, the ORIENTAL DARTER Anhinga melanogaster fits perfectly in the above criteria. It may sound simple but it was quite a task. On a lighter note, the shape of the neck resembles ‘S’ and I took it like S for Salem. It is also one of my favourite birds.” –Ganeshwar SV
NEW RECORD (1)
Elavarasan M recorded STORK-BILLED KINGFISHER Pelargopsis capensis for the first time in Salem on January 8, 2017 at Kannankurichi (Mookaneri) Lake. It was certainly a surprise record from the middle of the city. The complete checklist can be seen here.
3RD PONGAL BIRD COUNT & A NEW BIRDING GROUP
The third edition of the Pongal Bird Count (15—18 January) saw enthusiastic participation by many people. On the first day, a new birding group, UNITED SALEM FOR BIRD LIFE (USBL) was initiated by Tamil Nadu Science Forum for bird monitoring and to have a common platform for all birders in the district. During the bird walk at Kannankurichi (Mookaneri) Lake, three teams were split and they were led by Ganeshwar SV, Jagadeesan Krishnan and Murugesh Nateshan. Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus was recorded for the first time at the lake and a total of 149 species were recorded over the four days. The report was published in The Hindu and a Tamil daily–Dinakaran. We thank SP Saravanan and Gandhi for their support.
(Note: The news was published on January 17th; hence it carries only 125 species)
NEW RECORD (2)
On 26th January (Republic Day), Aravind Amirtharaj, Elavarasan M, Ganeshwar SV, Gokul Vadivel, Jagadeesan Krishnan and Murugesh Nateshan recorded the elusive HAIR-CRESTED DRONGO Dicrurus hottentottus, for the first time in Salem. Four individuals were seen on Erythrina indica tree in Yercaud Ghat Road. Initially overlooked as Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus, the team was however doubtful because of lower elevation and dry habitat. After careful observation, they got the correct identification. The complete checklist can be seen here.
Later that evening, 55 species were recorded including the Ruddy-breasted Crake Zapornia fusca and Baillon’s Crake Zapornia pusilla at Kannankurichi (Mookaneri) Lake. The complete checklist can be seen here. On that particular day, a total of 112 species were recorded.
GBBC OUTREACH (1) at THULIR* SCIENCE FESTIVAL
Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF) organized a two day Thulir Science Festival on January 28 and 29, 2017 at Universal Matriculation School. Various corner activities were conducted and Birding was one among them. Ganeshwar SV along with Tamizh, Gauthami, Subash, Venkat and Umaprabha gave talks in 8 different sessions and students were taken for a bird walk on the second day morning. The program focused on Great Backyard Bird Count and Campus Bird Count. More than 500 students participated in the event.
(* Thulir is a monthly science magazine in Tamil for children published by TNSF)
ADDITIONAL RECORDS FOR VAZHAPPADI TALUK
Though they were recorded in Salem taluk previously, for the first time in Vazhappadi, Kalai Selvan recorded Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis and Mottled Wood Owl Strix ocellata. The sightings were published in detail in three Tamil news dailies—Dinakaran, Dinamani and The Hindu.
GBBC OUTREACH (2, 3)
Two outreach programs for Campus Bird Count (a sub-event of GBBC) were conducted by Murugesh Nateshan on 14th and 16th of February at Panchayat Union Middle Schools in Krishnampudur and Thalavaipatti.
NEW RECORD (3)
5TH GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT—INDIA & A NEW RECORD (4)
Salem birders surpassed and created many new records in this year’s GBBC. Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura was recorded for the first time at Kannankurichi (Mookaneri) Lake. Three of our birders featured in the World’s Top 10 rankings for checklists. Krishnampudur School students stood at World No. 35 in terms of checklists submitted (65). Team USBL congratulates all the participants of GBBC. We extend our thanks to Rajangam P (teacher at Thalavaipatti School) and Senthil Kumar (Head Master of Krishnampudur School) for engaging their students in Campus Bird Count. We thank SP Saravanan of The Hindu for his support.
OUTREACH (4) FOR SCHOOL TEACHERS
On February 21, 2017 British Council training for English language was conducted at Government Boys High School, Magudanchavadi. Ganeshwar SV addressed school teachers from 25 Government schools from different parts of the district.
OUTREACH (5) & 1ST GREAT SPARROW COUNT
The first Great Sparrow Count was conducted from 18 to 20th March by United Salem for Bird Life. On the first day, Ganeshwar SV gave a talk on the importance of House Sparrows Passer domesticus at Panchayat Union Middle School, Thalavaipatti. It is not possible to say the increase or decrease in sparrow population with a random survey like this by few people. Hence more public participation is very essential. By doing this count every year, it will give us a better overview of the distribution and population status of sparrows in Salem. We thank SP Saravanan of The Hindu for his support.
Taking inspiration from the outreach program done by Murugesh Nateshan, an 8th standard student Dhanalakshmi of Panchayat Union Middle School, Thalavaipatti has started birding daily and her dedication is evident from the notes which she’s writing with illustrations.